The Corner

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The Washington Post Isn’t Making Sense


The editors of the Post, like everyone else, quote Obama’s words from 2007: “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” It then renders its judgment:

Mr. Obama’s actions of the past week square with his words of four years ago and, more important, with the Constitution — for reasons the president himself has articulated. There is a broad category of military operations short of full-scale war — from hostage rescues to humanitarian relief to enforcement of no-fly zones. Such contingencies, especially when they are likely to remain brief and involve little or no risk to U.S. troops, do not require full-blown debate in Congress and a declaration of war, in part because the process might go on longer than the emergency.

Okay, I can see (although I do not agree with) the Post’s constitutional argument. It rests on a distinction between “military operations” and “full-scale war.” But Obama’s 2007 comment didn’t refer only to war. He used the phrase “military attack.” Our military is, among other things, on the attack in Libya. The intervention does not “involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Assuming, reasonably, that “unilaterally” in the context of Obama’s 2007 remarks meant “without the approval of the U.S. Congress,” how can Obama’s actions possibly be squared with those remarks? I don’t see how they can.